It comes as an early Christmas present for YouTube fans: having battled over 7 years about the liability of YouTube for the musical works embodied in the uploaded video clips, German collecting society GEMA and YouTube at last managed to sign a licensing deal on 01 November 2016. German YouTubers rejoice about the unblocking of thousands of videos. Will GEMA members receive a nice gift as well? They may reasonably expect a big chunk of royalties because the agreement covers the period of exploitation since 2009. The deal terms are confidential but we had the chance to catch a glimpse of the licensing structure of the deal.
YouTube and GEMA sign licensing agreement after 7 years of legal battle
The press release
was a big surprise and the deal can easily be called a milestone in the digital era of music: YouTube and GEMA (German collecting society for music authors) settled their years-long dispute and reached a licensing deal covering the period since 2009 and the forthcoming term until 30 April 2019. Also the several court proceedings came to an end.
The most prominent change for YouTube users would be the unblocking of thousands of popular music videos by removing the infamous warning signs (“This video is not available in your country”). The music authors are looking forward to the remuneration YouTube now pays in a lump sum for the last 7 years exploiting their works. In the future, YouTube would report to GEMA each usage of musical works allowing GEMA to distribute the royalties to its members.
YouTube and GEMA have assured confidentiality about the terms. However, rumour has it that GEMA would participate in the ad-revenues and the subscription service monies of YouTube, backed by a minimum guarantee. During the negotiations, GEMA claimed 0.375 cents per access. It is likely that GEMA did not succeed with this amount but still bargained a good deal for their members. They would also be allowed to ask for transparency of the deal terms.
But the settlement of the court proceedings has one major drawback: each party holds its legal position regarding the responsibility for licensing the musical works on the online platform and no German court would decide on this topic yet. The discussion about “value gap” would therefore continue and GEMA calls for politics to create a modern copyright in the digital age. The EU Commission is already preparing respective next steps
After Spotify, Amazon, GooglePlay and AppleMusic, another major music platform licensed with GEMA, rejoicing the GEMA members for remuneration for the last 7 years and the future. The authors should examine their royalty statements closely and double-check with the YouTube clicks on their music. Innovative music start-ups may glee about the opportunity to negotiate with GEMA and properly license their service. The digital era is a great chance also for music.